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Construction Course Comes to the Aid of Ailing SF City College


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City College of San Francisco (City College SF) has had some issues. Since around 2006 there had been rumblings about the financial stability and administrative irregularities of the once-90,000 strong community college. The official school accreditation-conferring body, the Accrediting Commission for Community, and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), was brought in to investigate, throw some light on the problems, and recommend changes in order to bring the school into compliance. 

Instead, by 2013 the ACCJC had found mismanagement at City College SF on such a scale that it recommended the school be stripped of its accreditation altogether. This would have effectively closed the school. 

When the U.S. Department of Education stepped in and sanctioned the sanctioner (ACCJC) over its own internal failings, the City College’s problems moved to another level of complexity, and the public did not respond well.

Though the school, once a shining point of pride for San Francisco, has maintained its accreditation through all this, its reputation has taken a serious beating, and enrollments at the school have dropped 20% since the accreditation controversy began.

Now 20 San Francisco Unified School District students from John O’Connell High School are set to receive City College SF credit through a summer construction class. Under what is known to high school counselors as a Dual-Enrollment Program, high school students may receive credit for taking certain agreed-to college-level course work. Students who pass the construction class will earn two credits for their high school portfolios. These introductory construction courses are offered by City College of San Francisco, which has been actively looking for enrollee opportunities like this one to slow the flight of students from the embattled school, a slow but steady exodus that began with the first reports of accreditation trouble.  

Under a union agreement, San Francisco builders have to hire a certain percentage of local workers for construction jobs, so the dual enrollment coursework is seen as a dual-action rescue, of both the City College’s fortunes and those of the students who stand to benefit from the program. San Francisco’s dynamic building sector could certainly use the help of these future construction workers, and the City College of San Francisco can certainly use the enrollments. 

Add the fact that John O’Connell High School, the pilot high school for this dual-enrollment construction program, was for 60 years a vocational school (a legacy that vanished 15 years ago with the school district’s decision to move away from vocational education), and you have a story of a San Francisco educational institution being called upon to do what it did best for six decades. 

“The resurgence of Career Technical Programs is basically centered around O’Connell,” Principal Mark Alvarado has said. “We’re real proud of where we are.”